The period of the judges was like the predictable motion of a yo-yo. The Israelites were up and down. They rebelled and then repented. God allowed them to be over-run by their enemies, then God intervened by sending another judge.
Toward the end of those yo-yo years, the “Israelites again did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines forty years” (Judges 1:1). During those dark and difficult days, God began to prepare for the next judge.
“There was a certain man from Zorah, from the family of Dan, whose name was Manoah; his wife was unable to conceive and had no children. The angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Although you are unable to conceive and have no children, you will conceive and give birth to a son. Now please be careful not to drink wine or beer, or to eat anything unclean; for indeed, you will conceive and give birth to a son. You must never cut his hair, because the boy will be a Nazirite to God from birth, and he will begin to save Israel from the power of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:2-5).
Like Abraham and Sarah, Manoah and his unnamed wife were unable to conceive. Knowing the longings of their hearts, God graciously promised the birth of the long-awaited son. God explained that the boy would be a Nazirite and that as a judge he would lead Israel to overcome their oppressors.
The Nazirite vow was explained in the Book of Numbers. “When a man or woman makes a special vow, a Nazirite vow, to consecrate himself to the Lord, he is to abstain from wine and beer ... You must not cut his hair throughout the time of his vow of consecration ... He must not go near a dead body during the time he consecrates himself to the Lord” (Numbers 6:2–8).
Although the prophet Samuel was never called a Nazirite, his mother promised to never cut his hair, and she vowed that he would serve the Lord his entire lifetime (1 Samuel 1:10-11). John the Baptist was also likely a Nazirite. God declared that John would “be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer” (Luke 1:15). These three Biblical greats were life-time Nazirites. The Apostle Paul probably took a Nazirite vow for a specific period of time (Acts 18:18; 21:22–26).
Samson, the Nazirite, vowed to do three things. By abstaining from wine, he vividly portrayed his willingness to deny himself this world’s pleasures. Refusing to cut his hair, He depicted his absolute commitment to follow God at any cost. And by refusing to go near the dead, he illustrated his singular service to the living God.
I wonder... could it be that Jesus contemplated the Nazirite vow when He challenged His disciples, saying, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23)?
In a world of yo-yos, we need a few Nazirites, singularly focused on serving the one-and-only Living Savior!
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.